Roughly 20 years ago, Frank Vanden Broek and his wife, Robyn, were raising their three young children — all under the age of five, while looking after another pair for another family.
The stomach flu bug hit the household and the two were run ragged trying to care for the needs of five children who were dealing with an unpleasant illness.
In a phone call with his mother, Anne, Frank heard the words that he would try to live by for the rest of his life.
"It's far better to help others than to have to ask others for help," said Frank, recalling the phrase he heard so long ago from Anne.
Frank, along with his family, accepted the Cranbrook Citizen of the Year award on Friday evening at a gala ceremony at the Heritage Inn, as he was feted by members of the public, the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and local political dignitaries.
Frank, who was recognized for his volunteer work with the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, endured an evening of roasting and congratulatory salutations from friends, co-workers at Sun Life Financial and his fellow Rotarian volunteers.
"We've really had a lot of good times and created some wonderful memories through all of our rotary projects. We still have lots to do and I just want to thank all of you for the great times we've had working beside each other," Frank said.
In an interview with the Daily Townsman before the event, Frank admitted that the nomination, and the subsequent announcement that he had been named the Citizen of the Year, caught him off-guard.
He recalled being invited to dinner with Dave Struthers — the president of the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce, and his wife, Sally, about a month ago.
He noted the list of past recipients, and said it was an honour to join those names.
"It's pretty special," Frank said. "I look at the past recipients and what they've done and it's interesting, even a lot of those people—those are the folks that I go to when I need stuff and need help and the business people I need donations and in-kind stuff from.
"It's quite a list and it's pretty special to be added to that."
Frank is the 43rd Citizen of the Year, taking the mantle from Derek Kortschaga, who was named to the honour last year.
During the evening, Frank endured some needling from various dignitaries who stepped up to the microphone, while his fellow rotarians also had some fun at his expense with some skits on stage. In a nod to his former career as the owner of Juniper Lanes, there was some modified bowling, as wine bottles stood in for bowling pins, and loonies substituting as bowling balls.
In just a few short minutes, as people ‘bowled’ for the wine bottles, $200 was raised for a Paul Harris Scholarship.
His volunteer work with the Cranbrook Sunrise Rotary Club stretches back many, many years.
“Frank joined Rotary 15 years ago and our club’s been busy ever since,” said Trent Taylor, the president of the club. “Rotary has a motto—‘Service above self’—and Frank is truly representative of that motto.”
During his time with the club, Frank has served as membership committee chair for the rotary district, youth service director, hosting six students through the Rotary Youth Exchange, and has served two tenures as community service director.
“Frank’s always been the idea-man, the instigator of our major projects. He headed up Paint the Train project, which took three years,” continued Taylor. “I think it’s a testament to Frank’s perseverance. He really stuck with it.”
Frank was also one of the main drivers behind the Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo, a cycling event hosted annually in September, and has taken an active role within Rotary programs to tackle the eradication of polio, and built an iron lung in his garage.
Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt acknowledged Frank’s volunteerism in his address to the crowd.
“Your many hours of volunteering have had a very positive impact on our community,” Pratt said. “We sometimes take for granted the community we live in without taking a moment to realize and appreciate those who often work tirelessly for something we can all enjoy.”
Tom Shypitka, a city councillor but also a co-worker at Sun Life Financial, noted that Frank was always happy to help out and give advice on the job.
“Always borrow money from a pessimist, because they never really expect you to pay them back,” joked Shypitka.
Over the course of the evening, members also got to hear from his former exchange students through a video, and email letters.
However, by the end of the evening, Frank himself was able to get up to the podium to thank his family, co-workers and friends…and defend himself from some of the jokes at his expense.
“Just remember, there will be payback,” Frank quipped.
He also said he shared the award with his wife, Robyn and his kids—Cody, Patrick and Kara—who were usually dragged, whether they wanted to or not, into whatever project he had on the go.
Growing up, Frank was the third of six children, and he credits his spirit of volunteerism to his parents, Frank and Anne Vanden Broek, who were both present at the ceremony.
“They really raised us to help others and pitch in whenever we saw a need,” Frank said. “It wasn’t really something that was talked about a lot, they just lead by example. They also showed us it was okay to help out and help others without being publicly recognized. The joy was just in giving and helping.”